New car sales down nearly 13% in January, figures show
New electric car sales exceed 800 compared with just 106 in the first month last year
Fully electric cars now makeup 2.5 per cent of sales, with regular hybrids and plug-in hybrids accounting for a further 7.73 per cent.
Sales of new cars in January were down 13 per cent year on year, according to figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (Simi). Last month 32,374 new cars were registered with the new 191 number plates, down from 37,023 for the same month last year.
January typically accounts for about a quarter of annual sales because of the dual registration system.
The disappointing state of the market has a lot to do with the Brexit-related slide in sterling. Irish consumers have been taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate to buy used premium models in the UK over new models in the Republic. The is has caused a contraction in the new-car market. However, even the number of used imports slipped back on last year, down 55 cars at 9,061. The most popular models imported were the Ford Focus, VW Golf and BMW 5 Series. The majority of imports are between three and five years old and 72 per cent are diesels.
In the new-car market diesel has slipped below 50 per cent of the market, making up 16,021, but the big news is the surge in electric car sales, reaching 811 new registrations in January, up from just 104 in the same month last year. Fully electric cars now make up 2.5 per cent of sales, with regular hybrids and plug-in hybrids accounting for a further 7.73 per cent.
Hyundai is the best-selling brand in the new-car market, with 3,815 registrations, ahead of Volkswagen with 3,224, Ford with 3,156, Toyota with 2,815 and Nissan with 2,639. At the premium end of the market, Audi retains its lead with 1,063 new registrations, ahead of BMW with 767 and Mercedes-Benz with 763.
The Hyundai Tucson is the best-selling model on the Irish new-car market this year, with 1,522 sales.
The best-selling electric car in January was the new Hyundai Kona crossover, followed by the Nissan Leaf. The best-selling hybrid is the Toyota C-HR, followed by hybrid variants of its Yaris, Rav4 and Corolla range.
In the commercial market – a bellwether for general economic activity – van sales are down 16.3 per cent at 5,650, while sales of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) were down 11.4 per cent on January last year at 356 registrations.
The commercial market is also affected by used imports driven by weaker sterling and in contrast to the falling new vehicle sales, imports of HGVs were up 370 at 37.5 per cent, although the number of imported vans was down 18.2 per cent to 1,112.
Simi’s Brian Cooke described the January figures as “clearly disappointing but not surprising”. Mr Cooke, Simi’s director-general designate, said: “With Brexit fast approaching, adding to business uncertainty, the weakness of sterling is continuing to drive down used-car values, which is increasing the cost to change.
“While we hope the EU and UK’s negotiations result in an agreement that allows for free trade, the likelihood of no deal is increasing by the day. While the industry is ramping up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, in the context of the potential impact on a sector whose activity will be in the region of €5 billion between now and the end of the year it is crucial that the State fully clarifies the trading conditions in the event of no agreement being reached.”
Economist Jim Power, who has authored a report on the motor trade during the final quarter of last year, predicts the new-car market this year will fall 12.3 per cent to 110,000 vehicles, from 125,422 in 2018. “Used imports look set to reduce marginally to around 98,000. However, in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, sales would be weaker, and in the event of a deal and the removal of uncertainty, sales could match 2018. In overall terms, the coming months are likely to be characterised by deep uncertainty.”